All of the Feasts of the Lord were characterized by various names, each emphasizing a unique aspect of the annual commemorative events. The Feast of Shavuot (Hebrew) was first regarded by the Hebrew wanderers as Zeman Matan Toratenu, The Season of the Giving of the Torah, in remembrance of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai (Ex 20). The feast is also known as the Festival of Weeks because seven weeks were counted from The Feast of Firstfruits, the spring barley harvest, to the observance of Shavuot, the wheat harvest.
During the days of the Temple, Shavuot was regarded as an important agricultural holiday. The primary meaning of the feast is reflected in the name Yom HaBikkurim, the Day of Firstfruits, because the firstfruits of the summer wheat crop were presented (waved) at the Temple on that day:
“Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you present a new grain offering to the LORD
in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious
work.” Num 28:26
Shavuot is also known as Chag Hakatzir (the Feast of Harvest), as it marked the first official day of the summer harvest season (Ex 23:16). Both the Talmud and Jewish historian, Josephus, referred to Shavuot as Atzeret, meaning “conclusion,” because the feast occurred at the conclusion of the Passover season. The Greek translation of Shavuot is Pentecostos, meaning “fiftieth,” a significant biblical number commemorating the revelation of God on Mount Sinai that occurred exactly fifty days after the Exodus. For this reason the feast was celebrated fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:15-16, Deut 16:9-10). The number fifty speaks of liberty and jubilee in Scripture. By the mercy of God, the Hebrew people were at last delivered from the bondage of their wicked taskmasters and set free to worship the Almighty according to the precepts established in the Holy Torah.
Counting of the Omer
The time period between the Feast of Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim) and Pentecost (Shavuot) was known as Sefirah meaning, “counting.” The fifty day countdown was a season of great anticipation and exuberance for God’s chosen people as the high priest waved the omer before the Lord in thanksgiving for His gracious provision. Hope and joyful expectation abounded for an abundant harvest in the year to come.
An omer is a sheaf of barley (or wheat), the Firstfruits offering that belonged to God. The counting of the omer was done with the eagerness of a bride counting the days until her wedding. The ancient ritual was performed annually on the morrow after the Sabbath (Lev 23:15-16), a day of great prophetic significance that pointed to the glorious resurrection and ascension of our Lord Yeshua.
No one was allowed to partake of the harvest until the sheaf was first offered to the Lord. The day was considered holy, and no work was allowed in all of Israel during the time of sacred commemoration. During the remaining forty nine days between Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot), freshly harvested sheaves of barley were taken to the Temple daily, where they were offered to the Lord amidst a great display of pomp and circumstance.
The Spiritual Fulfillment of Shavuot
The spiritual fulfillment of the Feast of Shavuot is relevant to New Covenant believers because Yeshua is the Firstfruits raised from the dead! Because He rose, all men will rise one day, some to eternal glory and others to eternal damnation. Yeshua was the proverbial “kernel of wheat” that had to die in order to bring forth new life. Like the humble sheaves that were triumphantly waved before God during Passover (Pesach) and Pentecost (Shavuot), Yeshua was typically waved (offered), raised (ascended), and received (accepted) into glory by His heavenly Father on the morrow after the Sabbath–Resurrection Morning!
15“You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths.
16You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.” Lev 23:15-16 (Feast of Shavuot)
“Truly, truly [verily, verily or amen, amen]*, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
*Note the doubly emphatic adverbs spoken by Yeshua as He proclaimed great prophetic truth.
Ironically, the Pharisees, who believed in resurrection of the dead, denied the resurrection of Yeshua. Although they observed the Feast of Firstfruits according to the letter of the law, they missed the reality of the risen Lord to whom all Old Testament types and shadows pointed. The Sadducees, anti-supernaturalists, denied the Jewish belief in the resurrection. For them, the Feast of Firstfruits (Yom HaBikkurim) had no spiritual significance or purpose. Both religious sects tragically missed the prophetic signs relating to the coming of Messiah in spite of their extensive knowledge of the Mosaic Law.
The rich symbolism of the Feasts of the Lord reveals a vivid picture of Yeshua’s earthly mission. In the Feast of Shavuot, we see Him glorified before God and man. The exalted sheaf that was waved before the Lord on the morrow after the Sabbath prophesied of a new day. A new covenant was instituted on Resurrection Morning, a divine agreement that no longer required the ritualistic slaughter of innocent animals. The ultimate sacrifice had been offered and received in heaven. Yeshua, the true Sheaf of Firstfruits, faithfully endured the threshing and crushing necessary to become fine flour–and ultimately, the eternal Bread of Life for all men.
The Feast of Shavuot is commemorated in late spring or early summer. To learn more about this sacred event on God’s calendar, see my book: By Divine Appointment – A Study of the Feasts of the Lord and the Feasts of the People, available from noreenjacks.com, 264 pages, ($20.00, including tax, S/H).